A college in Florida had an interesting idea: build a replica of a segment of the infamous Berlin Wall that separated East and West Germany for 44 years. The wall was scheduled to be destroyed with sledgehammers by students on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the actual Berlin Wall.
But the professor who organized the project at New College in Florida, Lauren Hansen, apparently has another message she also wants to impart. According to Sarasota Magazine, she wants the fall of the wall to represent “national and international experiences of separating groups of people, cities and countries.”
Hansen stated about the replica wall, “It has become a place where students and faculty from the entire university can come to discuss borders and the divisiveness we encounter today in the U.S. and other parts of the world.”
Sarasota Magazine reported:
The project was organized by professor Lauren Hansen, who is currently teaching a course called The Berlin Wall in German Literature and Film. In January, Hansen led an independent study about the portrayal of the Berlin Wall in German literature, and the idea for the replica wall was created by her small group of students. While other universities have created replica walls in the past, New College students also reenacted historical speeches, presented film screenings, and held graffiti sessions and poster presentation sessions. Creating the wall also turned into a timely project about national and international experiences of separating groups of people, cities and countries, notes Hansen.
The replica stands eight feet tall and 16 feet wide and was placed so that students would be forced to walk around it to get to class. As radio host Rod Thomson cogently noted regarding the college’s project:
Germany was formally divided in 1949 and the wall went up in 1961. The East German communist party never had popular support, distrusted its citizens and ruled with an iron fist. Refugees left East Germany for economic and political reasons, causing a brain drain. In the intervening years, more than 3 million East Germans “voted with their feet” by moving to West Germany.
To equate that wall to our border wall would have meant the West Germans would have put up the Berlin Wall to keep the East Germans out. But it was the East Germans who did so, to stem the flow out of East Berlin. There’s a fundamental difference between a wall that locks people in like a prison wall and the Berlin Wall, and a wall that protects and establishes legal borders, such as movie theaters, sporting events, Disney and national borders.
The New College of Florida states on its website:
New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning.